Several embedded quotes from Reddit have been removed from this piece due to the content of the embeds later changing.
New dashcam video released yesterday shows the traffic stop that went south and ended with 28-year-old black woman Sandra Bland handcuffed and on her way to jail, where she would be found dead several days later. What starts out as an unremarkable encounter quickly deteriorates after officer Brian Encinia asks Bland to put out a cigarette.
“Would you mind putting out your cigarette, please?” Encinia asks.
“I’m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette?” Bland answers.
“Well, you can step on out now,” Encinia says. Bland refuses, and Encinia attempts to forcibly remove her from the car.
The video of Encinia's tactics -- at one point he pulled out his Taser and yelled "I will light you up!" -- caused the Texas Department of Public Safety to place him on desk duty pending the outcome of the investigation into Bland's death. “Regardless of the situation, the DPS state trooper has an obligation to exhibit professionalism and be courteous,” said DPS Director Steve McCraw. “That did not happen in this situation.”
While public reaction to the video has generally been negative, law enforcement officers' reactions to it were mixed. A thread devoted to the video on ProtectAndServe, the law enforcement community of Reddit, has garnered 331 comments so far. A round-up of those comments, below, offers some insight into the Sandra Bland arrest through a police officer's eyes. The comments that follow are from users verified as sworn law enforcement officers by the site's moderators.
"meuglerbull" gives a helpful rundown of the state and federal law applying in cases like this. The 1977 Supreme Court decision Pennsylvania vs. Mimms has generally been understood to allow officers to order people to exit a car during a traffic stop, for any reason.
But "Quick_Everyone_Panic" notes that a lawful order isn't necessarily a prudent one -- "It's not worth turning a simple traffic stop into a major ordeal just because somebody wouldn't put a cigarette out," he writes.
"Cop10-8" agrees, and it's worth noting that his comment his currently the highest-voted submission to the thread.
But "meuglerbull" tries to look at things from Encinia's point of view:
"DoctorGlocktor" is thinking along the same lines:
Some officers argue that responsibility for escalation lies just as much with Bland as it does with Encinia:
As "meuglerbull" states in one of his comments, everyone watching the video is essentially Monday morning quarterbacking the situation -- it's easy to say what a person would or should have done when observing a situation from afar.
And in focusing on the video, it's easy to lose sight of some of the broader issues Bland's traffic stop brings up, like the well-documented phenomenon of "driving while black," and the larger structural components of racism in the area Bland was pulled over.
Perhaps the cruelest irony of Bland's death is that she was a civil rights advocate who often spoke out against police violence, and about problems between police officers and the black communities they serve. She lived and breathed these very issues. And last week, she died by them.
UPDATE: This post has been updated to include screenshots of the reddit comments, rather than direct links to them.